In his 27 years as an aviation policy professional, the past few have been the closest the general aviation community has come to a civil war with the FAA and airlines, said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs, at a National Air Traffic Controllers Association safety conference in Chicago.
“Instead of the industry debating about the future of the air traffic control system, it has been fighting about how it’s going to be paid for,” he said.
“For almost 40 years, we’ve had a system that has combined the taxes paid by the users of aviation in concert with monies from the general fund, because there is a benefit, as we all know, of the aviation system to the country. And that system has worked,” Cebula said.
Former FAA administrator Marion Blakey and the airlines had wanted to make radical changes to the ATC system by charging user fees for entering Class B airspace and a 50-cent-a-gallon increase in avgas. But, as Cebula pointed out, such fees have devastated GA in Australia. In Europe, flying costs three times as much as it does in the United States. And in Canada, fees have trickled down to small operators, despite earlier promises to the contrary.
At the same time, Cebula said, GA is willing to pay its share by supporting legislation (H.R.2881), which would modestly increase avgas taxes to go toward ATC modernization.
AOPA’s goal is to get a bill through the current Congress. “We want to move ahead, but we do not want to move ahead by accepting user fees,” Cebula said.
The rising cost, future availability, and environmental impact of 100LL is on the minds of everyone in the aviation industry. AOPA is working to help find a viable fuel replacement that would have a minimal impact on our members and general aviation aircraft.
AOPA recently responded to the Environmental Protection Agency’s publication of a rulemaking petition to limit lead emissions from general aviation aircraft. The EPA’s move stems from a petition from the environmental group Friends of the Earth.
“Any change in the current fuel standard could have an impact on the safety of flight and therefore must be fully tested and FAA approved before any operational changes occur,” wrote Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs.
The FAA recently announced that it plans to study the aviation industry’s effect on the environment and correct problem areas. Currently, general aviation piston aircraft rely upon the use of 100LL, and there is no simple alternative fuel available.
“A suitable unleaded replacement fuel is one that can be used in all existing and new piston-powered GA aircraft. AOPA understands that for a percentage of aircraft, this may require engine and airframe modifications,” Cebula said. “Any transition plan must include adequate time for the aviation and petroleum industries to select an appropriate fuel octane and for any necessary aircraft modifications to be assessed and addressed.”
AOPA will be working with the FAA, general aviation industry, and other governmental agencies to advocate for pilots and aircraft owners.
State and local governments remain interested in security at GA airports, even though the federal government and the aviation community have taken comprehensive steps to ensure both the pilot population and aircraft are secure.
In Pennsylvania, the legislature is considering H.B.2292, a measure that would require two locks on all aircraft and institute criminal penalties for failing to use them.
In meetings with legislators and their staffers, AOPA’s team of security and advocacy experts explained that most pilots already secure their aircraft, airplanes are rarely stolen, and general aviation is not considered a significant terrorism threat. AOPA also has sent letters and asked members in the commonwealth to express their opposition.
“Members did a great job helping us counter this legislative mandate in Pennsylvania,” said Andy Cebula, AOPA executive vice president of government affairs. “AOPA is constantly on guard to protect members from unreasonable security requirements, but for the GA community to be successful, pilots need to take steps on their own. That means pilots need to continue to follow the Airport Watch message to lock your aircraft, and look out for anything suspicious at your airport.”
AOPA members reached out to their representatives with thoughtful explanations of why mandating such requirements is a bad idea; these comments make it clear as to where AOPA members stand on the issue.
“Imposing a two-lock requirement for general aviation aircraft is an unnecessary government intrusion and goes beyond the legitimate needs of GA security,” a member said, adding that AOPA and the Transportation Security Administration have partnered to protect GA aircraft and airports.
Beginning June 5, pilots will be able to file for two new low-altitude area navigation (RNAV) routes that should make transitioning around St. Louis Class B airspace easier and more efficient. The new T-routes, T-251 and T-272, were endorsed by AOPA in formal comments filed earlier this year. AOPA has supported T-routes since 2000 as a means to help general aviation traffic avoid congestion in and around Class B airspace; the routes are currently used in North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, and California, and they are in development in Atlanta.
GPS, ADS-B, and advanced radar services have improved aviation safety, but the FAA should ensure that they are adequate substitutes for tried-and-true direction finders (DF).
That’s the message AOPA sent the FAA in response to the agency’s plan to decommission the remaining 22 DF sites in Alaska. In its comments, AOPA asked the FAA to conduct a safety risk study before making a final decision about the fate of DF in Alaska. The agency conducted a similar study before it decommissioned other U.S. DF sites in 2007. But because of Alaska’s rugged terrain, challenging weather, and enormous size, DF may still serve an important safety function, AOPA warned.
“Pilots flying at low altitudes have limited radar coverage and new ADS-B technology is still several years from full implementation,” explained Melissa Rudinger, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs. “We need a study to determine whether these newer technologies can provide an equivalent level of service and safety without DF in the mix.”
DF is used to help lost pilots get back on course by homing in on the aircraft’s radio transmissions and providing a bearing to the DF station. One station can pinpoint the pilot’s position by having the aircraft make turns and assessing the bearing change. If two DF stations are in range, the bearings can be plotted on a chart.
AOPA is asking the FAA to make an important clarification to a planned area navigation route, or T-route, in southwestern Oregon to protect pilots from the region’s icing conditions.
AOPA asked the FAA to establish a minimum en route altitude (MEA) that is lower than that of nearby Victor airways for the proposed T-274 route between the Newport VOR and CRAAF intersection. A lower MEA would put some portions of the route into airspace where pilots cannot communicate with air traffic control. Such communication gaps would lower capacity for the route but could keep pilots out of the ice. AOPA asked the FAA to create T-274 in response to pilot requests for a route near the Oregon coast. T-routes allow pilots flying with IFR-certified GPS receivers to file direct routes in congested airspace.
There’s no need to expand the De Soto military operations area (MOA) when existing special-use airspace located nearby could support planned training, AOPA told the FAA and Air National Guard. AOPA urged the agencies to take advantage of existing offshore warning areas for training activities rather than add new De Soto 3 and 4 MOAs to the De Soto Airspace Complex. “Using the warning areas, located less than 50 nm from the proposed MOAs, would virtually eliminate the impact on civil aviation and increase safety by reducing the chances that unauthorized aircraft would stray into the training zone,” explained Pete Lehmann, AOPA manager of air traffic services. As proposed, the new MOAs would affect traffic on Victor Route 70 and Victor Route 11, a key route between Mobile, Alabama, and Jackson, Mississippi.
You could get slapped with a steep tax bill if you fly into Maine within the first year after buying your aircraft. The Maine legislature gutted a bill that AOPA had helped develop to exempt out-of-state aircraft owners from the 6-percent use tax.
“New aircraft owners should protect themselves by steering clear of Maine,” said Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of regional affairs.
The last-minute change to the bill exempts charity and compassion flights from the 20-day limit a new aircraft can be in Maine without being taxed, but it does not exempt an aircraft’s time spent in the state because of poor weather or business or pleasure trips. Time spent in the state for maintenance is already exempt.
Aircraft owners who did not have to pay sales tax when they purchased their aircraft would be subject to paying 6 percent of the aircraft’s sale price. Those who paid a sales tax less than 6 percent would be charged the difference.
AOPA had worked with the Maine aviation business community to persuade the governor’s office and the legislature to develop a solution. The bill, which was AOPA’s most promising option, was stripped because the Appropriations Committee wanted the funding from these taxes to address the projection that next year’s structural gap would be about a half-billion dollars.
“We’ve told the legislature that they won’t be able to get much revenue from the use tax because new aircraft owners won’t fly into the state,” said Pecoraro.
While a few weekend trips to Maine might not hurt, pilots should be wary. “There is a gray area. It is possible that if you fly to Maine on a Friday evening after work and stay until early Monday morning before flying back to the office, that stay could count as four days of the time limit,” Pecoraro explained. “Or, let’s say your aircraft gets weathered in during your weekend trip, but because of work obligations, you have to leave your airplane and drive or catch a train home. The clock is ticking the whole time the aircraft is stuck in the state.”
Pilots are encouraged to read the Maine Revenue Service’s explanation of the use tax before flying into the state.
On Saturday, June 7, AOPA will open its headquarters to members and the public. Join us for this free event in Frederick, Maryland (FDK), from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Stroll through 100 exhibits and see 40 aircraft on display AOPA’s Fly-In and Open House is free and open to anyone interested in aviation—not just members or pilots. All activities are held rain or shine. For fly-in procedures and all show details, visit AOPA Online.
Talk to an aviation insurance specialist before you go aircraft shopping. An experienced broker will be able to advise you what various underwriters will require for minimum pilot qualifications, common checkout requirements, an estimate of annual insurance costs for various types of aircraft, and help you develop a transition plan.
Know what to expect.
Be prepared to pay higher premiums until you complete training and build some time in the new aircraft, perhaps for a few years or more.
Accept reasonable changes by the underwriter to your transition plan; make sure you forward documentation of your flight training as you complete it; if recurrent training is called for, do it when required—avoid asking for extensions of deadlines.
A current, frequent-flying pilot with high make and model time is what every underwriter is looking for.
Call the AOPA Insurance Agency at 800-622-2672 or see the Web site for more information about transitioning to a more complex aircraft.
Thousands of AOPA members carry the AOPA WorldPoints credit card from Bank of America. They already know that by carrying and using the card, they earn their choice of rewards, keep AOPA dues low, and keep general aviation strong. But thousands of others still don’t know about the card and all it can do.
The AOPA WorldPoints credit card gives you reward points with every purchase—rewards you can use for brand-name merchandise, travel with no blackout dates, cash, or gift cards. In addition, it allows you to earn double points for most aviation purchases and returns valuable revenue to AOPA at no cost to you.
To find out more about what the AOPA WorldPoints credit card can do for you and for general aviation, or to apply for a card, visit AOPA Online.
If you’ve kept an eye on aviation news over the past year, you know that the transition to the new Lockheed Martin-run flight service program hasn’t exactly been trouble-free. Despite promises of improved service, pilots have sometimes faced long hold times, sub-par briefer knowledge, and lost flight plans.
Fortunately, things seem to be getting better, but there’s still quite a bit of “new” in the new flight service. That’s why the AOPA Air Safety Foundation partnered with AOPA’s government affairs division to produce an interactive course that helps pilots to get the most from this important flight safety resource. After a brief retrospective (including a video message from AOPA President Phil Boyer explaining the circumstances behind AOPA’s support for flight service modernization), the course takes a behind-the-scenes look at the new system and how it differs from the one many of us grew up with. Then it’s on to a helpful guide to using the system, both on the ground and in the air, and a list of alternate resources for times when you’re having trouble reaching a briefer.
You’ll also find a multitude of helpful tips for getting the most from the new flight service. For example: Did you know you could file (or close) a flight plan with any flight service specialist, regardless of location? In the new phone system, pressing “1” and then saying “any” guarantees that you’ll get the first available briefer anywhere in the system.
The fun, free course only takes 20 to 25 minutes to complete. Find it online.
If you have an instrument rating, you know what it’s like to fly partial panel. Or, at least, you know what it’s like to fly partial panel under carefully controlled circumstances, with an instructor in the right seat and foreknowledge of a simulated vacuum pump failure. But have you ever wondered what it would be like in real life?
Donna Wilt knows. In a first-hand audio account on the AOPA Air Safety Foundation Web site, she and passenger Matt Welch recount the story of their 2007 vacuum failure in IMC amid Florida thunderstorms. The riveting 11-minute tale—punctuated with actual ATC audio—carries an important reminder for pilots who may have gotten complacent about the all-too-real possibility of vacuum pump failure. It’s also an object lesson in the importance of having a back-up system if you fly in IMC, or at night. Hear the story, and then take ASF’s Pneumatic Systems minicourse to learn more about vacuum systems, how they work, and different options for system redundancy.
ASF’s Real Pilot Stories series lets pilots who really have “been there, done that” share their experiences with other aviators. Told in the pilot’s own voice, each true story includes valuable insights and lessons learned from some truly harrowing situations. If you’ve ever wondered how you’d react to getting caught in icing conditions—or being confronted by a snake in the cockpit, or turning around and seeing a child dangling from the open door of your airplane—this is the place to go!
Up for a challenge? Taking a Safety Quiz on the AOPA Air Safety Foundation Web site is a fun way to find out how much you know, and maybe learn a few things you didn’t. You can choose from topics as diverse as medical certification, thunderstorms, regulations, preventive maintenance, and emergency procedures. Each 10-question quiz is scored instantly, and detailed answer explanations (often with links to related info) are provided for those who want to learn more.
A new quiz is featured every other week online. If you’ve already taken the featured quiz, challenge yourself with another topic in the “Previous Quizzes” section. And remember, anyone who completes a quiz can register to win a Sporty’s Air-Scan V Aviation Radio/Scanner.
In the 1990s, public-use airports were closing at an average rate of two per week. Over the past 10 years, thanks to the efforts of the AOPA Airport Support Network, AOPA member volunteers at almost 2,000 airports across the country have played an integral role in helping AOPA slow that trend. For more information on how you can help support your airport, visit AOPA Online.
Idaho: Local governments develop comprehensive plans to maximize investments in their communities and properly forecast growth to meet demands. Developing a plan for a municipality with an airport, or an airport nearby, requires specific knowledge of aviation activities and often times, AOPA Airport Support Network volunteers bring that knowledge to planning tables. At Boundary County Airport (65S) in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, ASN volunteer Patrick Gardiner has been the local resource for the Boundary County Airport Board, which makes recommendations to the county commissioners as they develop a new comprehensive plan for the area. The airport’s 4,000-foot runway provides significant contributions to the region’s economy, particularly because of its strategic location approximately 15 miles south of the Canadian border. Local leaders want to ensure the airport continues to thrive and contribute to future economic growth by protecting the airspace surrounding the airport and paving the way to obtain a new GPS approach to increase the airport’s use and access. As the local airport resource for the airport board, Gardiner contacted AOPA to find out how to initiate the request for a GPS approach with the FAA and how to best protect the airspace in the comprehensive plan. AOPA provided him with a link to the Air Traffic department’s process brief for establishing instrument approaches, which outlines how to coordinate the process locally and with various offices of the FAA. Gardiner is using the information from this brief and AOPA’s Guide to Airport Noise and Compatible Land Use to help write appropriate language to protect the airspace and land around the airport. His proactive efforts working with a supportive airport board will ensure Boundary County Airport continues to play an important economic role in the region’s future.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Don’t let poor zoning decisions threaten your airport. Learn how and when to get involved with the planning process as Patrick Gardiner did by going online where you can download the ASN handbook, Participating in the Planning Process: A Guide for Airport Advocates.
Colorado: “Win over the people you fly over,” says Mike Gugeler, former ASN volunteer for Erie Municipal Airport (EIK) in Erie, Colorado. Gugeler, current ASN volunteer Scott deLuise, and members of the Friends of the Airport support group opposed the construction of the Anthem subdivision now located under the airport’s arrival/departure path. The group decided the best way to mitigate future complaints from the airport’s new neighbors and the often-heard “close the airport” refrain was to invite them over for lunch and an aerial house-warming. When the airport supporters approached the homeowners association about hosting a social event to educate the residents about the airport and its operations, the Anthem HOA immediately accepted the invitation and offered to share the costs. “Anthem Day” included a hamburger cookout, airport tours, and free airplane rides for the residents. The key to the successful event was a pre-event briefing that included talking points for the airport supporters and pilots who would escort the guests around the field and up in the sky. Gugeler’s talking points focused on the airport’s value to the community and its primary purpose as an “on/off ramp” to the nation’s largest public highway. Simply by taking a Saturday out of their busy schedules to educate the new neighbors on how airplanes and airports operate, the Friends of Erie Municipal Airport helped to make the field a destination instead of a nuisance for the new neighbors.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: To help you “win over the people you fly over,” local elected leaders, and other members of your community, AOPA created Take ’Em Flying, an online resource that helps you plan your flight, gives you ideas for talking points, and explains how to make the most of this introduction to general aviation for your passenger(s). Download the brochure.
Green has a variety of contexts in our lexicon today, including how people view airports. For example, some environmentalists support airports because they may be considered green space. Airports also can be green from an economic perspective because they generate financial activities that resonate throughout the community, region, and state in the form of employment, development, and other revenue drivers. Most airports contribute positively to a locality’s economic health through direct impact (on airport activities) as well as indirect impacts such as tourism and businesses where money changes hands in restaurants, hotels, and other venues beyond the field. Many states have published airport economic impact reports detailing these values; see if your airport’s “green” value is listed online.